Spar Group advancing sustainability initiatives to reduce plastic waste

The Spar Group sustainability executive Kevin O’Brien

Brown plastic bottles are being recycled and repurposed into reusable Spar shopping bags

28th February 2024

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online


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JSE-listed retailer Spar Group is undertaking several initiatives to curb the environmental impact of plastic packaging materials.

This commitment aligns with the group’s dedication to phasing out harmful plastics and is expected to contribute significantly to the reduction of non-recycled multi-layered materials in oceans and landfills.

The group says it has been deliberate in designing for circularity and is committed to designing packaging that is reusable or recyclable and that contains recycled content.

Last year, it recycled 19 000 t of cardboard and plastic through reverse logistics operations.

All its carrier bags are now made from 100% recycled materials, with a minimum of 70% post-consumer waste, and are 100% recyclable, diverting about 4 000 t/y of plastic waste from landfills.

These numbers represent a 40% drop in the carbon footprint of their production, the group points out.

“We’re actively pursuing responsible packaging, sustainable product design and eco-conscious processes that prioritise the well-being of our planet. We’re also highly deliberate in the development of eco-friendly initiatives and alternatives, including the utilisation of responsibly sourced raw materials, all of which makes a difference in the elimination of problematic plastic,” says Spar Group sustainability executive Kevin O’Brien.

The group avers that significant progress has already been made.

All extra-long shelf-life Spar-branded 2 ℓ fresh milk cartons are 100% recyclable and crafted from 87% renewably sourced materials. These cartons also carry information about the circular economy, aimed at educating shoppers on how they can actively participate in recycling.

The group’s decision to replace coloured lids with white lids on its Spar fresh milk plastic bottles, in the vein of making recycling easier and aligning with circular economy principles, recently earned it the Platinum Design Award in the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation Recycled Plastics Product Award.

Brown plastic bottles are being recycled and repurposed into reusable Spar shopping bags, woven from recycled polyethylene terephthalate into a polyester fibre that the group says supports sustainability and empowers local communities, with a long-term vision to establish recycling stations in stores to repurpose these bags into blankets, further minimising waste.

In a partnership with Supercart, the group has created trolleys using recycled milk bottles, diverting more waste away from landfills as it works towards mitigating the environmental impact of its operations.

“Spar Group is also one of the founding members of the SA Plastics Pact, which aims to create a circular economy in South Africa that drives investment in infrastructure, supports livelihoods and job creation, and keeps our environment free of plastic pollution.

“What is clear, is that recycling alone will not solve the plastic waste crisis. Achieving the targets that we’ve set for ourselves will mean making tough decisions and investing heavily, but we’re prepared to do this. If retailers of all sizes throughout the country would do the same, the retail sector’s contribution to plastic waste would reduce significantly and our impact on the environment would improve,” says O’Brien.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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